- The Washington Times
Thursday, August 19, 2021

Hillsdale College has made available a “1776 Curriculum” for American history and civics that it says stands in contrast to the rapid spread of critical race theory curriculums in K-12 education that have created an uproar in many states.

Like the “1776 Unites” curriculum unveiled recently by the Woodson Center, the Hillsdale package is free and can be downloaded by school districts, teachers and homeschoolers.  

A conservative outpost that traces its roots to 19th-century abolitionists, Hillsdale College is a private institution in Michigan that takes no government money, and it has long positioned itself in opposition to what it considers the reckless, left-wing drift in American education.

“Throughout most of our nation’s history, Americans learned about and revered these ideas,” the school wrote about its curriculum rooted in founding documents like the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. “Sadly, because of the Left’s hijacking of history education in so many of our schools, this is no longer true.”

The curriculum comes at a time hundreds of school boards are grappling with public hostility toward critical race theory-rooted approaches to K-12 education. 

CRT, an ideology lauded by proponents as a more honest look at U.S. history but dismissed by critics as little more than warmed-over Marxism, has become an umbrella term used to describe curriculums built around what supporters call “anti-racist” pedagogies.

Critical race theorists hold that America is suffused with racism and that its institutions were designed to protect and promote White supremacy. Consequently, all interactions in American life are warped by racial power dynamics that must be reversed — and for some adherents, it means White people are inherently “oppressive.”

The Hillsdale and Woodson projects are part of a nationwide pushback against the growing influence of CRT orthodoxy like the 1619 Project, a 2019 research and reporting project by The New York Times that put slavery at the center of the American experience. The Pulitzer Prize-winning project was criticized for shoddy scholarship and historical inaccuracies, but has since been developed nonetheless into a curriculum for K-12 public and charter schools.

1619 was the year in which the first slave ship came to American shores in the Carolinas.

Hillsdale officials were unavailable for comment Thursday, but in a recent fundraising pitch, Hillsdale executive Bill Gray made the contrast explicit.

“The New York Times’ recent ‘1619 Project’ is the prime example of this effort to inject into the minds of our youngest citizens a biased distortion of our nation’s history,” Mr. Gray said. “It’s clear to me that we are in a fight for the future of our nation — a fight against progressives who are targeting our youngest citizens. These so-called ‘progressives’ seek to undermine traditional patriotism and ultimately transform American government and society.”

The offered curriculum tracks American history from the colonies through the Civil War at four points during the K-12 years, each time with increased depth, according to its billing. It also offers lesson plans, teaching materials and sample tests for American history since the Civil War.

“Our nation has grown from a few hundred people huddled in a strange land along the eastern seaboard to a huge nation that spans the continent,” Hillsdale President Larry Arnn writes in a preface to the 1776 Curriculum.

“Through the vast changes that have come upon the world and the United States in these centuries, the nation has been governed under a written Constitution, long the oldest surviving in human history,” he said. “Under the principles of the Declaration of Independence, that Constitution provides for a government operating under the authority of the governed. This achievement is unprecedented.”

It was unclear Thursday how many people may have downloaded Hillsdale’s 1776 Curriculum. The 1776 Unites curriculum claimed 17,000 downloads as of Wednesday night.

• James Varney can be reached at jvarney@washingtontimes.com.

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